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  1. Through the first 5 games of the season, Auburn made up for their lack of a pass-rush from their front-4, with a variety of blitzes. Against Mississippi State, Auburn's blitzes were always a step behind resulting in only 4 quarterback hurries and 1 sack. Through 6 games the Auburn DL is responsible for only 58.1% of the teams quarterback hurries and 50% of the team's sacks. Last season the DL was responsible for 92.2% of the sacks and 83.6% of the team's quarterback hurries. Angelo Blackson recorded his first sack of the season against Mississippi State, which is today's clipbit. The play... On this play MSU faces a 3rd & 9 from their own 27-yard line. The Bulldogs will come out in a 5-WR set. Auburn will counter with a 4-man rush, executing a twist with their DT's, At the snap Ben Bradley will loop over Angelo Blackson as Gimel President comes on a speed-rush over top. Angelo Blackson will break through inside, forcing the MSU QB to scramble. Prescott attempts to take off up the middle but Ben Bradley has solid gap containment, forcing Prescott to scramble outside the pocket. Angelo Blackson continues his track to the QB, running him down from behind for the sack. Gabe Wright (7) and Elijah Daniel (6) are the current leaders among the DL in QB hurries and DaVonte Lambert is the only DL with more than 1 sack this season.
  2. Auburn’s amazing turnaround this past season will raise the preseason stock of the 2014 Auburn Tigers. Early preseason polls have Auburn ranked in the top-5, which we haven’t seen in a very long time. There will be high expectations for the 2014 team, primarily based on the accomplishments of the 2013 Auburn Tigers. As amazing as the 2013 season was, 7 of Auburn’s 14 games were decided by 8-points or less. Despite having an offense that established school records in total yardage, yards per game and run-offense, the Tigers found themselves in too many close games. If Auburn is to come close to duplicating their 2013 season, the defense will require continued improvement. In a multiple-part series, I intend to breakdown aspects of the 2013 Auburn team, which will highlight areas requiring improvement for 2014. During the first segment, the focus is on the run-defense. Coach Rodney Garner has the same coaching philosophy as Tracy Rocker. Most defensive linemen gravitate towards the opportunity of making sacks but you won’t have those opportunities unless you can stop the run. Regardless of the opponent, the No. 1 priority on defense is to stop the run, something Auburn has struggled with for the past 3 seasons. 2013 Results: The 2013 Auburn run-defense finished No. 63 in run-defense (yards allowed per game). The Tigers were No. 86 in yards allowed per rush (4.60 yards). No. 110 in allowing a run of 10-yards or more every 6.1 attempts. 81 such plays were allowed for the season. No. 101 in allowing a run of 20-yards or more every 22.5 attempts. No. 74 in allowing a first-down run every 4.2 attempts. No. 49 in allowing a rushing TD every 26.1 attempts. No. 80 in allowing 4.7 yards per rush on first down. No. 76 in allowing 4.5 yards per rush during the first half. No. 62 in allowing 3.9 yards per rush during the 4th quarter. Even though the majority of big plays allowed on defense this past season came from the opposing pass-offenses, it was the opponent’s ability to run the football that often slowed down an improved Auburn pass-rush. Once Auburn placed their opponent into 3rd & long passing situations, the Tigers defense played well. Auburn finished the season No. 62 in pass-efficiency defense but rose to No. 18, when the opponent faced 3rd & 10 or longer. They key to 2014 will be forcing 3rd & long more frequently than 2013. Auburn run-defense vs. SEC (2011-2013) During Auburn’s last 25 conference games, the Tigers have allowed 204.4 yards rushing on 5.09 yards per rush per game. 15 of the 25 conference opponents have rushed for at least 200-yards, with Auburn compiling a 7-8 record during those 15 games. Auburn has held only 1 of their last 25 conference opponents to under 100-yards rushing. Auburn’s explosive offense often masked deficiencies on the defensive side of the football during the past season. With Auburn allowing 204.4 yards rushing per game during their last 25 conference games, the opponent has been able to complete over 63 percent of their passes. This also includes a TD-INT ratio of 46 to 14 and 233-yards passing per game. Once again, an established running game almost always slows down a good pass-rush. During the BCS National Championship game, Auburn’s 232-yards rushing created opportunities for Nick Marshall and the Auburn pass-offense. Marshall was able to hit on 7 impact pass-plays during the game, finishing the game with a higher pass-rating than Jameis Winston. It should be noted FSU was held to 148-yards rushing, which often placed Winston into more obvious passing situations. The good news for Auburn is the major improvement by the defensive line in 2013, especially in the interior line. Though Auburn loses Dee Ford and Nosa Eguae, the Tigers return plenty of depth up front. Another year of off-season conditioning should help the 3 true freshmen that contributed in 2013. Additional JUCO help is on the way to provide more talent and depth up front. Until Auburn can consistently defend the run, they will not reach the ability to become a dominant defense. Coach Ellis Johnson and his assistants did a splendid job with what they had to work with this past season. Auburn had to install a new defense, while combating injuries and attrition in the depth chart. Though there were obvious gaps in the performance of the defense, they did rise to the occasion on third-down and inside the red zone. The goal for 2014 will be to become more consistent, starting on first down and defending the run. Next up… The Auburn pass-offense.
  3. As poorly as Arkansas has performed this season, the Razorback running game has been solid this season. Arkansas is No. 4 in the SEC in rushing with nearly 210-yards per game. Auburn's defense has improved as the season has progressed but will face a stiff challenge stopping the Razorback running game. During Auburn's first 2 SEC games of the season, the Tigers allowed 5.12 yards per rush. During Auburn's last 2 SEC games, the Tigers held their opponent to 3.25 yards per rush. On this play FAU is backed up at their own goal line and will run their zone-read to move away from their own end zone. At the snap Montravius Adams is double-teamed as the FAU quarterback attempts to read Carl Lawson's reaction to the zone-read. Lawson does a great job of freezing at the line, not committing to either run-option. At the same time Kenneth Carter obtains great pad-level on the LT, which allows him to penetrate the backfield through the "B" gap. The quarterback makes the inside give to the RB, who is immediately hit by Kenneth Carter. Carl Lawson does a great job of fending off the TE to assist on the tackle. The FAU running back made enough forward progress to make it out of the end zone, avoiding a near safety. This is the type of play Auburn will need against the Arkansas OL to limit the Razorback running game. Coach Garner's consistent rotation of his DL should allow the Auburn defense to remain fresh throughout the game.
  4. It appears LaDarius Owens has finally found a home as a DE this season after being bounced around from the DL to LB. Through 7 games, Owens leads the DL in tackles with 23 and he is 4th on the team with 4.5 tackles for loss. With Coach Rodney Garner rotating 9-12 DL each game, Auburn has built some quality depth this season, which has allowed the Tigers to be fresh & productive during the 4th quarter. On this play Auburn is defending the TAMU offense, which faces a 3rd & 8 from the Auburn 39-yard line. The Tigers show a blitz look with a LB lined up over the A-gap. LaDarius Owens takes a wide split, which will likely set up a 1 on 1 match up with the LT because of the "blitz" look. At the snap, the LB backs out but Auburn obtains the 1 on 1 match up with their DE's, Owens and Dee Ford. Owens comes with a speed rush on the LT and beats his man right off the line. LaDarius Owens loops over the top and makes contact with Johnny Manziel from behind. Owens wraps Manziel up as Dee Ford arrives to finish off the sack at a critical juncture of the game. Last season the Auburn DL recorded 33.5 tackles for loss in 12 games. The 2013 DL already has 40.5 through 7 games.
  5. Gus Malzahn recorded his first signature game with a road victory over a top-10 ranked team and it was a glorious team effort. Yes, the defense gave up a boatload of yardage and points but that was expected. They did make critical plays during the game and snuffed out the Aggies possible game-winning drive. Both defenses failed to stop the other team's strength on offense. Auburn could not stop the Aggie pass-offense and TAMU could not stop the Auburn run-offense. This difference in the game was how each defense handled the secondary phase of the opposing offense. Auburn held the Aggies to 3.3 yards per rush and Nick Marshall finished the game with a QB rating of 162.7. Auburn won this match up, which ended up being a key difference in the outcome. Red zone production was the primary difference in the game with Auburn scoring 38 points from 6 trips inside the Aggie 20 and TAMU scoring only 13 points from 4 trips to Auburn's red zone. Auburn basically scored 3 more points per each visit to the red zone than the Aggies. Johnny Manziel is clearly the most exciting and effective quarterback in the nation, making Auburn's red zone defensive stands even more impressive. Credit Coach Rodney Garner for the DL rotation again and keeping his troops fresh for the 4th quarter. The defense did force 2 turnovers, made three "3 & out" series and added a loss-on-down series. Hopefully Tre Mason will garner more national attention and credit for being one of the top RB's in the conference. Mason's 178-yards rushing was his best conference game of his career. He will likely receive a few carries next week against FAU but hopefully Auburn will be able to give him a much needed rest after the first quarter. Hopefully Nick Marshall has earned the right to be the starter and we won't see Jeremy Johnson coming in during the middle of a possession, disrupting the flow of the drive. Despite pulling the red shirt on Johnson, this cannot be the reason to play him going forward. In my opinion, Marshall should be the starter unless he is struggling. Johnson doesn't need to play just because Auburn burned his red shirt. There should be a purpose for playing him. Inside the Numbers... Once again, Nick Marshall performed better has the game wore on. He had a pass rating of 148.9 during the first half and 177.7 during the second half. For the 6th time in 7 games this season, Auburn has won the tackle for loss battle. Auburn averaged 9.4 yards per rush outside the tackles and 4.6 yards between the tackles. 8 different Auburn players recorded an impact play on offense and Nick Marshall was directly involved in 7 of Auburn's 12 impact plays on offense. Taking away the Aggies 13 impact plays and Auburn's 12 impact plays on offense, TAMU averaged 3.16 yards per play on their remaining 69 snaps and Auburn averaged 3.45 yards on their 73 remaining snaps. Nick Marshall had a pass rating of 56.7 on first down, 224.5 on 2nd down and 239.4 on 3rd down. Nick Marshall had a pass rating of 174.2 on his 12 pass attempts beyond 10-yards of the line of scrimmage. Sammie Coates was the most targeted Auburn player with 9 passes thrown his way. He finished the game with 5 receptions for 104-yards and 1 TD. Of the 37 combined carries by Auburn's 3 top RB's only 1 went for a loss. Major shout out to the OL and to Coach Grimes. Auburn netted at least 30-yards on 78 of their 14 possessions and TAMU did it on 7 of their 14 possessions. Auburn's 379-yards rushing was the 5th best rushing game in school history against a top-10 opponent and the most ever on the road against a top-10 opponent. Auburn's 615-yards in total offense was a school record against a top-10 opponent. Auburn's 45 points is the 2nd most in school history against a top-10 opponent and the most on the road against a top-10 opponent. Cody Parkey continues to hammer away with 5 touchbacks on his 8 kickoffs, 6 for 6 on extra points and 1 for 1 on FG's. Tre Mason rushed for 473-yards in 8 conference games last season and had totaled 421-yards this season through 4 conference games. Chris Davis led the Auburn defense with 9 tackles against the Aggies. By rushing the ball 60 times against the Aggies, it allowed Auburn to win the time of possession battle, which truly was a factor in such a high-scoring game. Auburn is now 2-3 in games they allowed over 600-yards to the opponent. Both wins have come with Gus Malzahn calling the offense. Final Word... Auburn has clearly been prepared to play in all 7 games this season, performing better overall during the second half. Through 7 games it appears Auburn's coaching staff has obtained the most of their personnel and have made great game-time adjustments. You really can't ask for anything more from any coaching staff. Auburn's 6-1 start suddenly has the Tigers in the picture to compete for a SEC Championship but they will need to continue to improve to make it happen. The Rebels upset over LSU only helps the Auburn Tigers quest to win the West. The 2013 Auburn Tigers are now bowl eligible with plenty to play for during the next 5 games. The schedule is truly working out in Auburn's favor this season. The Tigers had a bye-week after the LSU game, allowing the team to overcome their disappointing defeat before preparing for a ranked Ole Miss team. Auburn returns home for the Florida-Atlantic game after an emotional victory over the Aggies before taking to the road again in conference play. It will allow the players to come down from their emotional high before being challenged again. With Auburn's recent rash of injuries, the FAU game comes at a great time for the Tigers to mend. I don't believe anyone expected Auburn to be favored in 3 of their last 4 conference games but this could very well be the case if Auburn continues to perform at this current level. The key to success this season has been the overall focus of the players and the coaches ability to maintain the level of focus. It's way too early to for this team to celebrate because 4 of Auburn's 6 wins have been by 8 points or less. The good news for this team is their confidence level continues to rise with each challenge they face. Sometimes you have to learn not to lose before you can win consistently and it appears Auburn has studied well in this regard. Keep on grinding Auburn and the blessings will continue to surface. War Eagle!
  6. During the post game, Coach Ellis Johnson commended Coach Rodney Garner for his work and preparation with the Auburn DL this season. The DL was a work in progress, when the season began but to their credit, they have progressed along with the season. The DL had it's best game of the season in tackles, TFL, QB pressures and sacks. Some of the sacks came because of great coverage, forcing the Ole Miss QB to hold the ball longer than desired. On this play, the Ole Miss line will double-team Ben Bradley. This opens the door for the 3 remaining Auburn lineman. Gabe Wright beats the RG with a swat and swim move over top to obtain an inside track to the quarterback. The best pressure in the world is inside pressure because it prevents the quarterback from stepping up in the pocket. Once Wright beats the RG, he takes down the Ole Miss QB for a sack. Throughout the night we witnessed multiple players on the DL taking advantage of their 1 on 1 opportunities along with coverage-sacks. Because the pressure was coming primarily from the front-4 and from all angles, it kept the Ole Miss OL on their heels. The floodgates were opened and the Auburn DL frequently flowed into the Ole Miss backfield.
  7. Last season was No. 73 nationally in TFL per game on defense primarily because of a lack of push by the Auburn front-4. This season under Defensive Coordinator Ellis Johnson and Coach Rodney Garner, the defense is currently No. 6 nationally in TFL per game and No. 2 in the SEC. The defense registered 13 tackles for loss this past Saturday against the Red Wolves, which had not been accomplished since 2004 against Kentucky. Through 2 games Auburn has recorded 29 quarterback hurries, which is more than half of the 55 recorded through 12 games during 2012. On this play Auburn will execute a double-stunt as ASU faces an obvious passing situation on 3rd down. Justin DeLaine has a clear path to the QB after Angelo Blackson ties up 2 OL. Gabe Wright simply beats his man inside as the two DL race to the ASU quarterback. To his credit, the ASU quarterback is able to avoid being sacked by DeLaine and Wright but LaDarius Owens and Angelo Blackson arrive just in time to swallow up the QB, taking him down for the sack. On this one play alone, all 4 DL had their hands on the opposing quarterback. Despite not having Dee Ford available through the first 2 games, Auburn has managed to improve their pass-rush from 2012, which has kept Ellis Johnson from having to blitz on a regular basis just to manage some level of pass-rush. What was feared to be a possible weakness before the season began is pleasantly turning into a team strength.
  8. From 2003-2011, here is the average number of tackles for loss from the front-7: DE: 28.4 DT: 25.1 LB: 19.9 Here is a breakdown from 2012: DE: 19.5 DT: 14.0 LB: 11.5 From 2002-2011, Auburn's front-7 averaged 73.9 TFL per season. The 2012 front-7 had 45. During Ellis Johnson's last 2 seasons as DC of South Carolina: DE: 23.7 DT: 28.2 LB: 21.7
  9. Great interview with Coach Johnson posted in a prior thread. I really believe he is what Auburn needs right now on defense. He might be "old school" but he is a hard working coach, who demands the same from his players. In regards to his comments about "impact plays" on defense. Impact plays defined as forced-turnovers and tackles for loss by the defense. Here is the current ranking of the SEC defenses over the past 2 seasons based on the ratio of Impact plays on defense. Alabama ................. 6.74 LSU ........................ 6.90 South Carolina ..... 7.22 (7.25 under Johnson, his last 2 yrs at USCe) Georgia .................. 7.26 Florida .................... 7.58 Vanderbilt ............... 7.83 Missouri .................. 8.12 Ole Miss ................. 8.37 Miss State .............. 9.12 Texas A&M ............. 9.48 Tennessee ............. 9.57 Arkansas ................ 9.63 Auburn ................... 10.05 Kentucky ................ 10.89 The SEC average over the past 2 years has been 1 every 8.32 plays. Also keep in mind that UGA was No. 5 in the SEC in tackles for loss on defense in 2011 and 2012, the last 2 seasons under Rodney Garner as DL coach. Good to know Auburn has the combination of Johnson and Garner on staff for 2013. Since 2005, anything exceeding the 8.0 ratio in defensive impact plays is basically top-30 material across the nation. ________________________________________________ From 1996-2006, Auburn's ratio for impact plays was an impressive 7.40. The Tigers exceeded the 8.0 mark in 10 of 11 seasons. From 2007-2012, Auburn's ratio has slid to just 9.03, breaking the 8.0 mark only 1 time in the last 6 seasons and that was during Auburn's BCSNC season in 2010. From 2005-2012, Auburn's average national ranking in defensive impact plays is 54.7. During that same time span, the average ranking of an Ellis Johnson defense is 26.6. Eight of his last 12 defenses as a coordinator finished in the nation's top-30. ________________________________________________ Ole Miss made a huge improvement in this area from 2011 to 2012. During the 2011 season, the Rebel defense defended 806 snaps with 74 impact plays. This was a ratio of 1 every 10.89 plays defended and one of the worst ratios in the nation (95th). During 2012, the Rebels defended 910 plays but generated 131 impact plays or 1 every 6.95 snaps. This ratio was 4th best nationally and was No. 1 in the SEC. Most fans focused on the Rebels improvement on offense but their defense made some major improvements too. 8 teams from the SEC finished in the nation's top-25 with a combined win pct of nearly 75 percent during the 2012 season. _________________________________________________ Ellis Johnson's average ratio of defensive impact plays... 1997 Alabama ................ 6.29 1998 Alabama ................ 5.58 1999 Alabama ................ 5.85 2000 Alabama ................ 8.35 2004 Miss State ............. 8.62 2005 Miss State ............. 7.69 2006 Miss State ............. 6.92 2007 Miss State ............. 7.36 2008 S. Carolina ............. 8.20 2009 S. Carolina ............. 8.63 2010 S. Carolina ............. 7.54 2011 S. Carolina ............. 6.96 * Again, keep in mind that anything exceeding 8.0 is basically top-30 material nationally. Anything exceeding 7.00 is top-10 material.
  10. 118 years of combined collegiate experience, including 68 in the SEC. Taking the average recruiting rankings of the 4 coaches at their respective programs dating back to 2002, they come out with an average national ranking of 19.2 according to Scout.com. Ellis Johnson has posted top-30 defenses at his last 4 stops as DC. Top-25 scoring defenses at 3 of his last 4 stops as a DC. Yop-20 run-defenses at 3 of his last 4 stops as DC. Rodney Garner has been part of 10 top-25 defenses. 10 top-25 scoring defenses and 7 top-25 run-defenses. Charlie Harbison has been part of 7 defenses that finished at No. 36 or better in pass-efficiency defense and his last 12 defenses coaching in the secondary have averaged 16 picks per season. Auburn has averaged 11 per season during the last 8 seasons. Melvin Smith has also been part of 7 defenses that finished in the nation's top-36 of pass-efficiency defense. His last 16 defenses have averaged 14 picks per season with 7 having 15 or more. The 4 coaches combined have sent 97 defensive players to the NFL over the past 20 seasons. In comparison, Auburn has sent 45 defensive players to the NFL during the same time frame.
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